I'm gonna be honest: I'm totally biased when it comes to all things Michelle Obama. There is nothing that my Forever First Lady can do wrong. Although she's been out of The White House for almost two years now, she hasn't been sitting idle. She's been busy hosting voting drives with her celebrity friends, fighting for girls' education worldwide, writing her first book, raising two intelligent Black women, and — I like to think — side-eyeing everything President Donald Trump does while sipping tea from her Washington, D.C., home.
And this morning, just as I was refreshing my StubHub page to see if I could finally get tickets to her damn-near sold out Becoming book tour, the December/January 2019 issue of Essence popped up in my inbox. On the cover, Michelle is rocking bouncy curls that hit just at her collarbones. And all I can say is, Come through, natural! This is the first time Michelle has stepped away from her flowy silk press for one of her iconic magazine covers — and, of course, she did it for Essence, a publication that has celebrated Black women since 1970.
Back in 2017, her then-hairstylist Johnny Wright confirmed to Refinery29 that Obama is 100 percent natural. And we got a paparazzi picture to prove it while she was on vacation. But seeing Obama with natural-looking ringlets on newsstands brings me a joy that I can only liken to the morning after midterms when I woke up to Democrats taking the House and women of color owning the elections.
For years, I've been hoping to see Obama wear curls to a state dinner or press conference (much like I'm waiting for Meghan Markle to give us just one peek at her natural waves). But, alas, that day never came. How Obama wears her hair is her choice, and she never revealed why she opted for a straighter style in the White House. Though, with the stigma that natural hair still holds in certain arenas — of being unkempt and unprofessional — I can imagine she might not have wanted to give the press one more thing to comment on. I mean, why should Michelle have to field questions about her hair when she has much more pressing matters to champion, like getting young people out to vote?
But this hair at this time is just what we needed. It's not a coincidence that she's wearing curls on the cover at the same time that she is launching her memoir. The book reveals things about herself that she's never let the public in on, like her fertility struggle. That private side — along with her natural hair — has been protected with the armor that being in the most-public position required.
It's also a time when women of color are breaking huge barriers in the political space. Candidates like Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts (who is now the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in the state) ran history-making campaigns and did it while rocking natural hairstyles.
And it's not just politics. Earlier this year, Beyoncé showed of her natural curls on the cover of Vogue; Tracee Ellis Ross is rocking flat twists and Afros on national TV in her leading role on Black-ish; and cornrows were widely worn by women of color on the Fashion Week runways this past season.
Natural hair is officially off the list of things to avoid when building an image for a C-suite job or a political campaign or a modeling career or an entertainment empire. And it's so freeing. It's about time the world is willing to accept every side of Black beauty — head wraps, silk bonnets, $1 shower caps, cornrows, Afro picks, perm rods, box braids, relaxers, wrapping foam, twist-outs, and all.
And to be clear, when Obama wears her hair pressed and laid just so, that's real, too. But this cover unravels a side of her we've never seen before. And it's an Obama we hope to see again (preferably running for political office in 2020, just saying). Until then, I'm going to keep this gorgeous image of Obama on stand-by for the next time someone has anything slick to say about my natural curls. Is there a problem? Well, let me refer you to my First Lady with a 'fro.